December 4, 2011
For Immediate Release:
NEW YORK, December 4, 2011 — Today family farmers from across the U.S. will participate in the Occupy Wall Street Farmers March to join in solidarity with efforts to expose corporate control of our food supply.
The event begins at 2 p.m. at La Plaza Cultural Community Garden with remarks about the growing inequity in our food system from farmers and food workers followed by a 4 p.m. Farmers March to Zuccotti Park, where farmers, activists and ranchers, who have travelled from as far as Colorado, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Wisconsin and Upstate New York, will march to ground zero of the growing Occupy Wall Street movement to curtail excessive corporate influence.
“The Farmer's March is a celebration of community power to regain control over the most basic element to human well-being: food. The food system has been taken over by multinational corporations to the detriment of communities, ecosystems, local economies, and soil all over the world,” said Paula Winograd and Seth Wulsin, members of the Occupy Wall Street Food Justice committee. “We march for urban/rural solidarity, to share the solutions that are already happening, and to strengthen our regional food networks based on the basic principle of food justice: that access to fresh, healthy, affordable food is a human right,” proclaimed Winograd and Wulsin.
Over the past three decades, the U.S. has adopted economic policies promoted by Wall Street investment banks and agribusiness monopolies that have led to massive consolidation in food and agricultural sectors. Today market concentration is so great that only four firms control 84 percent of beef packing and 66 percent of pork production, which has resulted in forcing more than 1.1 million independent livestock producers out of business since Ronald Reagan was elected in 1980.
“Widespread collusion between corporate lobbyists and elected officials has undermined independent farm and land ownership, threatening the safety of our food and the foundation of our democracy ” said David Murphy, executive director of Food Democracy Now!, an Iowa based sustainable farm advocacy group.
“With the growing power of food monopolies, farmers are the 99%. The current inequities are destroying opportunities for America’s farmers, eliminating the few remaining options for open markets to sell their goods or receive fair prices in the marketplace,” said Murphy.
Murphy will be joined on the Occupy Wall Street Farmers March by Colorado rancher Mike Callicrate, who in the 1990s was a lead plaintiff against the largest beef packer at the time, IBP, now part of Tysons Foods. Maine organic farmer Jim Gerritsen will also be a featured speaker. Gerritsen, as the president of the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association, became the lead plaintiff against seed and chemical giant Monsanto in an effort to protect family farmers from having to defend themselves from patent infringement lawsuits should Monsanto’s genetically engineered seed contaminate their farms.
“The money and political power of Wall Street has stolen America’s food system, bankrupted our farmers and ranchers, mined our soils, polluted our environment, wasted our precious water, and left us with expensive industrially produced food that makes us sick,” said Callicrate who owns an independent cattle feedlot and a direct-to-consumer beef operation.
“America has been broken by the corporate takeover of our country, and it shows in the dysfunction of our government, our economy, our lost jobs and on our farms. The Occupy movement is our new American conscience. And that's why farmers are here for the Occupy Farmers March, to show solidarity with those who are working honestly to rebuild our democracy,” said Gerristen, who was recently named as one of the 25 Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World in 2011 by Utne Magazine.
The Occupy Wall Street Farmers March comes on the heels of several major policy losses for family farmers in Washington DC, including the failure of the Obama administration to pass fair market livestock rules, known as GIPSA, an effort by House and Senate Agriculture Committee leaders to write a “Secret Farm Bill” and Congress’ rejection of serious reforms to our children’s school lunch program in favor of declaring pizza a vegetable.